Review by Danny Gaisin
** Guilty Guilty Guilty ** A sleepy-headed scribe credited Lehninger instead of Parker for “O’ Canada” ! Editor
The H.P.O. concert was named & dedicated to its two composers, Maurice Ravel and Dmitri Shostakovich. Approximately one generation apart, the Frenchman and the Russian had some similar and yet some totally diverse musical styles and experiences.
Ravel lived from the end of the 19th century to almost the start of WWII. His compositions like Tombeau de Couperin; Daphnis e Chloe, plus his arrangement of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures’ are now almost as familiar as the piece he wrote for the movie “10” (just kidding)!
Stravinsky was born in 1906 and lived until 1975: – the year of the Watergate convictions; ‘Rocky Horror Show’ opening; inaugural ‘Wheel of Fortune’ episode; and the Taylor/Burton remarriage. It was also the wedding of Arkansans Hillary and Bill Clinton. Shostakovich was heavily influenced by Prokofiev and certainly by Stravinsky whose atonality is emulated in his 5th Symphony.The guest soloist was pianist Ian Parker and his performance of Ravel’s concerto in G major reflected the critical accolades of which he’s been recipient. This writer must add another positive notch… the man is a virtuoso with a talent to present abstruse readings of both theme and melody. From the dissonant openings, to the duet with the wind section, to the long solo that marks the adagio 2nd movement, (with the familiar radio programme theme); he aced every nuance, both emotionally and technically. His spritely and almost comedic encore – Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was pure saccharine (to reduce calories) icing.
Guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger is a meticulous artist who emphasizes melodic interpretation. Shostakovich’s 5th is a tonal mixed bag, the lyrical allegretto 2nd movement affords an exceedingly lyrical violin solo to the concertmaster. Stephen Sitarski’s interpretation was romantic and exhibited a depth of emotion that must have been the composer’s ultimate intention. The oboe solo is the highlight of the somewhat soporific largo movement, and even Lehninger couldn’t add any pizzazz to what probably caused Stalin to detest the work outright. But overall, his interpretive reading brought the audience to its feet, especially the rather knowledgeable couple seated to my left.
In recognition of today’s special meaning, a mufti-clad Jamie Sommerville addressed the audience and requested we stand for the playing of ‘O Canada’. Lehninger conducted it in a most dramatic and sensitive manner.
Bit of trivia, the strings are permitted to wear their poppies on the right side, otherwise their instruments will knock the traditional symbols off!